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On November 18, 2016, cjt111242 commented on Go Home Handelsbanken, You’re Obsolete :

Thanks for the post, Emma! Very compelling business model but I think you touch on the key elements that will determine if this is just a bull-market product or if this is the new normal. I think there is a great potential for misalignment given the brokers are compensated by origination fees but the lenders are compensated by the interest rates on the loans. We’ve already seen in the news recently one significant example of inappropriate lending practices at Lending Club in which the company knowingly sold a loan to an investor that did not meet the investor’s “express instructions.” I guess the natural counter to that would be that folks like Lending Club are incentivized by good loan performance because they want investors to keep coming back to purchase more loans. Lending Club was in fact held accountable given its stock dropped over 35% and is CEO was pushed out. But, the question remains as to what happens when there is an economic downturn and widespread loan defaults vs idiosyncratic events such as the one mentioned above.

Thanks for the post, Zach! I think ESPN is a very unique case to consider when thinking about the changing media landscape. A couple questions/thoughts that come to mind:
1. What should ESPN’s strategy be around sports distribution rights on television? I think conventional wisdom suggests that sports are insulated from the DVR threat given the necessary live-viewing. Should ESPN continue to pay top dollar for these rights or do you think the market for live sports is frothy and peaking? I know we’ve started to see NFL viewership decline this season – is that a one-off phenomenon or do you view it as a broader trend?
2. I understand from your chart that ESPN subscribers have been decreasing but does that also mean its viewership is declining? My assumption would be that those individuals who are pursuing skinny bundles (ie. dropping ESPN from their package) would probably be the ones who weren’t watching ESPN to begin with. So, while subscribers are decreasing, and subsequently fees from cable distributors, are advertising rates actually decreasing as well? Revenue is declining but the model wouldn’t necessarily by breaking completely.

On November 18, 2016, cjt111242 commented on REDFIN: USING DIGITIZATION TO FLIP THE HOUSING MARKET :

Very interesting and thought provoking post, Craig! I agree with “SB” and you in saying that the real estate space is incredibly interesting because it is such an old school model. I understand what RedFin is attempting to do but I think it is fighting an uphill battle. Technology will definitely have a role in the future but I don’t think its role will be to disintermediate the broker. To me, the very nature of residential real-estate purchases are highly personal. They are huge life investments for people and I can’t imagine anybody making a significant purchase without seeing a location in person. In my opinion, people still want that high-touch, face-to-face service that brokerage delivers.

Because I think brokers are the past, present, and future, I think what Compass is doing is incredibly interesting (I’d be curious to get your thoughts). Basically, Compass is treating the agents as a stakeholder just as important as the buyers and sellers of the actual homes. As such, Compass operates a centralized model, investing in technology, culture, support, design, and marketing with the goal of providing the absolute best resources to agents which in turn will deliver better customer service to buyers and sellers. Compass’ strategy is to differentiate itself to brokers and incentivize them to come on board. Do you think this is the right strategy to target brokers to grow or do you think the future of real estate is disintermediating brokers and going directly to consumers?

Very interesting and thought provoking post, Alicia, especially in light of the cases this week and the concept of dynamic pricing! I think Cristina raises a very important point about privacy. I am wondering how you view the tradeoff between less privacy and more efficient pricing (ie. matching premiums to better reflect the actual risk). Furthermore, given that society and individuals will all likely have different feelings on the privacy issue, how do you think consumers who value privacy will react to what will most certainly feel like a penalty to them (since they won’t be able to benefit from the discounted rates because they don’t want to share their data)?

For me personally, I am very in favor of this for a few reasons. Firstly, I don’t think good drivers should have to subsidize worse drivers. Driving behaviors can be improved and if consumers want to pay less, they should work to be safer drivers (it is not the same thing as pre-existing conditions in healthcare, for example). Moreover, by incentivizing better driving through discounts, the insurance companies are encouraging safer driving for everyone, which is a huge net benefit to society.

Very cool post! As a big sports and basketball fan, I am personally partial to the NBA shortening its season because the quality of the product would be much improved (but that’s a conversation for a different day). Regarding the wearables technology, I am a bit confused at what exactly the device is measuring during the game. From your post, it seems as if the technology is tracking sleeping, consumption, and other behaviors outside of the game context. Moreover, most of the issues you mention arise from the potential conflicts of using the device during the game. My point is that much can still be learned from the wristband even if it is not worn in-game to improve player safety, preparation, recovery, etc. and thus improve the quality of the product.

Separate but related, I am wondering if the same technology (assuming you got around the issues surfaced above) can also be used to do more advanced sabermetrics type data collection on players. I know this has been a huge trend in baseball and am wondering if the same can be applied to basketball despite the different dynamics of the individual sports. I’d suspect big data (in terms of stats) would have less of a use-case in basketball vs. baseball given smaller teams and the outsized impact of star players. Would love to chat more on this.

On November 6, 2016, cjt111242 commented on Can banks save the world? The case of Bank of America :

Very interesting and thought-provoking post, Eugeniu! I think your choice of a bank is particularly interesting because of the massive impact a bank can have on the direction and allocation of resources in the economy both today and in the future. I completely agree that banks have an enormous role to play. For starters, as you note, banks have great credit exposure to businesses that are negatively impacted by climate change. So, it is simply good business practice to recognize and account for these risks when underwriting. For these reasons, I really like your idea about incorporating some sort of climate change or environmental criteria in the credit underwriting process. Perhaps it is not binary, but at the very least there could be a scale that directly links to the rate or terms of a particular financing. Additionally, I never thought about but I really enjoyed thinking about the angle you propose – banks have suffered greatly in terms of reputation and it will likely take a generation to repair, rightly or wrongly, some of the damage banks have done from the public’s perspective. By getting ahead of and tackling such an important, large-scale, and highly impactful issue as climate change, I think banks can begin to regain some of the eroded confidence the public has in them. It is both good and good business from many perspectives.

Very interesting and thought provoking post, Mike. I always think of Starbucks as a company on the cutting edge of all types of double bottom line initiatives and this post confirmed that intuition. I think the tension that you describe in your post, between Starbucks desire to address climate change versus its obligation to growing its business and producing shareholder returns, is really the key question almost all companies are facing as it pertains to environmentally sustainable operations. I think Starbucks is well positioned, though, given the nature of its business and its customers. I think many Starbucks customers are willing to pay a premium, not only for the coffee but also because they know Starbucks is a multi-mission company. I think this will likely give Starbucks some necessary air cover as it will likely need to pass through price increases to its customers in order to address some of the issues you mention above. Additionally, I think what Starbucks is doing with regard to helping farmers develop tools and knowledge to adapt to changing climates is critical and smart. Many companies simply seek to reduce their own carbon footprints as a way to address sustainability without trying to come up with solutions to address the potential negative impacts that climate change will have on their operations.

On November 6, 2016, cjt111242 commented on Time for Marriott to ‘Check-in’ to Climate Change :

Very interesting piece, Eric! I think Marriott’s efforts to date on reducing the impact its operations have on the environment and encouraging its guests and employees to act more “green” are commendable. Marriott is really taking advantage of its scale and infrastructure to communicate not only its role as a company, but also its guest’s role in combating climate change. Do you know how Marriott benchmarks against others in the industry?

Also, I thought it was particularly interesting to think about not only how Marriott is implementing sustainability efforts, but also how climate change has the potential to negatively impact its business. I noticed that you outlined many ways the business may by affected (extreme weather, etc. leading to declining revenues) but I didn’t see much on how Marriott is responding to these threats other than in relation to what Marriott is doing in its own sustainability efforts. How can Marriott better prepare itself for potential disruptions? For instance, with less snow cover affecting traffic at its ski locations, Is Marriott partnering with company’s such as Vail Associates to work on potential mitigants such as artificial snow? Also, did that trend you observed in 2011-2012 continue? It seemed like a rather large one-time drop.

On November 6, 2016, cjt111242 commented on British Airways: Flying in the face of fuel inefficiency :

Very interesting post, Michael. Two things stuck out to me. Firstly, it was interesting to learn that British Airlines was one of the least fuel efficient airlines despite all its apparent efforts to address its impact on the environment. BA’s rationale makes sense (ie. BA has more premium seats, which mean less seats/flights, which likely leads to lower emissions/passenger/kilometer). I assume it is part of BA’s strategy to offer more premium seats but the flip-side is obviously greater emissions from transporting the same amount of passengers as an equivalent airline that was focused on economy seats. I am wondering if BA has or if you think it will in the future alter its offering strategy to address this gap, especially since the emphasis on mitigating environmental impact is only likely to increase in the future. Secondly, your point about better optimizing use of airspace seems like low hanging fruit but it also seems like it is just an effort by BA. I think (correct me if I am wrong) that much of the flight plan, time in the air, holding patterns, etc. is out of BA’s control. Is there an industry-wide effort to better optimize use of airspace that includes the airports, regulators, airlines, flight control folks, etc?

On November 6, 2016, cjt111242 commented on The Melting Final Frontier: A Silver-Lining for Cargo Liners :

Very interesting and thought provoking post on the double-edged sword of climate change. I wrote a similar post focusing on the the same environmental phenomenon (ie. melting of Arctic ice) but instead on how it impacts the cruise industry, specifically Crystal Cruises. I’d imagine that Eimskip is facing a similar tension with how to reconcile its own environmental impact by rationalizing its carbon footprint with pursuing business opportunities that only exist because of climate change. I think Crystal is going to struggle with this inherent contradiction because the effort to reduce its carbon footprint is less linked to its decision to offer trips sailing through the Northwest Passage. For example, Crystal has a company-wide effort to reduce the environmental impact of its operations generally by reducing CO2, conserving energy, water, waste, etc. but the key difference is that those efforts are not directly tied to its reasoning for pursuing business in the Arctic. I think the Eimskip situation is unique in that by pursuing business in the Arctic, and thereby reducing distance traveled, Eimskip is able to reduce emissions and improve fuel savings. The direct link makes the actions more justifiable. Of course then the question becomes weighing those benefits with the costs of exposing the Arctic, which happens to be a particularly vulnerable region.